Gala Dress Guide

What should you wear to a charity event, fundraiser, or auction? No need to fret! Follow these style tips to put your best dress foot forward and wow the other guest with your red carpet ensemble!

Before picking out a dress, find out the dress code. The invitation should say whether it is a black tie gala, black tie optional or semiformal event. Here are a few dress ideas based on the invitation.

Black Tie

A black tie event is a dressier affair where men wear tuxedos or formal suits and women wear long formal gowns. Rich, bold colors for dresses work best to embody elegance and luxury. If you desire something with a bit more sparkle, look for metallic-like fabrics and monochromatic beading allowing you to shine and still complement your date's attire without overpowering it.

Black Tie Optional

Black Tie Optional is a less dressy event where a tuxedo is optional. Women can still wear formal evening gowns or a dressy cocktail dress, if they so desire. Consider a floral or printed gown in a vibrant hue for an elegant look on the dressy side, or you can go bold with a plunging neckline or halter silhouette to make a great impression.


At a semiformal affair, it’s usually a party with a more relaxed atmosphere. Men can wear a nice business suit while the ladies can be at ease with a lovely cocktail dress or modern jumpsuit. A non-traditional semiformal jumpsuit is a great way to stand out and try something different, not to mention comfortable!

What Shoes to Wear

Shoes are the one item that will dress your look up or down. Sparkling peep-toe heels are an easy go-to as you can select a color that matches your outfit; go black or neutral to let your dress do the talking. When you want to make a shining impression, consider an embellished platform pump for formal black-tie galas. A platform is a comfortable option for a night of dancing.  Strappy heels work well for both black-tie and black-tie optional gowns. If you are looking for semiformal footwear, sophisticated by relaxed, a sling back or peep toe pump will pair well.

How to Accessorize for a Gala

Always accessorize!  A necklace or bracelet with earrings are always sufficient. When selecting accessories, take into consideration the type of neckline on the dress. Off the shoulder, strapless and V-neck dresses pair well with a short necklace or choker, while you can go long and extravagant with your necklace for boat necklines.  For dresses that have splashy and multi-colored designs, go for muted jewelry colors.  For dresses that are more monochrome and neutral, go for sparkly and shimmery jewelry. 

It’s usually colder during gala season, therefore, consider a shawl or wrap for bare shoulders to keep you warm without detracting from your evening gown.

Shop here for you upcoming gala:

  • Belk
  • Belk Men’s Store
  • Macy’s
  • Men’s Warehouse
  • Ticknors